Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Supergirl #17


Supergirl #17 came out this week, the penultimate chapter of H'El on Earth, an arc I will be happy is coming to an end. From the beginning, the deck was stacked against Supergirl in this story. In the span of a couple of issues all the characterization that has been slowly building in her main book was demolished.

In Supergirl, Kara was on the journy, moving from a grieving character to one who was dealing with her tragedy and realizing she needed to move forward on our world. She was a character very reticent to let anyone in ... to trust anyone, but one with a solid core of being a good person. She wanted to help and would never harm anyone. yes, it was decompressed story-telling but this Supergirl was someone I was rooting for, someone I was hoping was going to work her way through her stages of grief and emerge a young hero.

In H'El on Earth, all of that went away. She immediately trusted H'El. She jumped in with both feet in believing his story. She immediately fell in love with him. And she began lashing out at everyone around her ... first calling Earth a ball of sweat and mud and then bludgeoning Superboy within an inch of his life.

This has not been a good story arc for Supergirl. And I find that in her own title, writer Mike Johnson is trying to do the best he can with this editorial edict of Supergirl being a patsy and a villain. He has her saying things that jibe better with his characterization of her. And so we have this issue where finally ... finally ... she realizes the truth, that H'El has been duping her. Of course, she has to be told it by Wonder Woman, never getting to that conclusion herself. It makes these earlier issues of H'El that much more preposterous. Why didn't someone tell her this a while ago?

I will once again pass some sympathy onto Mike Johnson who probably didn't want this to happen to Kara but was forced their by 'the powers that be' ... I am looking at you Dan Didio and Eddie Berganza ... people who have never seemed to understand the character of Supergirl and what should be done with her. And kudos to Johnson for at least trying to portray Kara in a sympathetic way here and in his other issues of H'El.

I have no complaints about the art though. Mahmud Asrar continues to amaze on this book and this issue, in particular, is fantastic. His fight sequences and his Wonder Woman are very easy on the eyes and make this issue a visual treat, one with lots of splash pages.

Enough preamble. On to the review.


The issue opens with Wonder Woman and Supergirl in a standoff. And, as usual, Supergirl is ready to fight and defend H'El's star chamber, a machine which is straining the time-space continuum of our solar system.

You can read Johnson's thought on Supergirl in Wonder Woman's words. She is a strong brave woman, someone fighting through tragedy. But this defense of H'El and his plans is idiotic. No more sympathy.

Funny, that is just how I have been feeling about this Supergirl up to know. The fact that she has maintained some sense of perspective, hasn't gone mad or wallowed in rage, despite the sadness around her has been remarkable. That has been one of the strengths of this book, that Kara has been something of a hero despite the recent events of her life.



But this being H'El on Earth, that stuff isn't happening. Maybe she and Diana could be allies but not in this story.

Even this panel is an interesting pattern because it is mirrored by one of H'El punching Superman in the same way. There is no doubt ... Supergirl is a villain here.


Despite all this, Superman still seems to have some faith and familial love and loyalty to Supergirl. He is angry that H'El is using her for his schemes and defends her.

I haven't always seen Superman be so demonstrative in his love for his cousin. In fact, in some places he has outright belittled her. But again, I wonder if Johnson is trying his best to patch things up in this book.


As I mentioned before, I think Asrar is phenomenal in this issue. The fight scenes show nice 'bullets and heat vision' action and his Diana is just spectacular.

And, despite her power, Supergirl isn't as prolific a warrior as Diana. I loved this part of the fight where Diana simply hog-ties Supergirl with the magic lasso. I love the expressions here ... one of surprise on Kara and of superiority on Wonder Woman. Great stuff.

Now I never have a super-solid understanding of the powers of the lasso. Here Wonder Woman says the truth of the situation, that H'El is going to blow up the sun, will be revealed by the lasso. Is that true? Does the lasso work that way?


Supergirl has one last trick up her sleeve, the corona wave sunburst, which blasts her free of the rope but drains her of her last energy.

While Wonder Woman is blasted away it is temporary. And the drained Kara can't escape.

Can I say that I have come to accept this power! I didn't think I would like it but if used in this way as a last ditch effort which drains Supergirl, I think it is a neat little maneuver. I didn't think I would like it at all. I guess even an old fan can accept new tricks.


And here is my favorite moment of the book.

With everything that has happened, it would be perfectly reasonable for Diana to just deck Kara. Instead, Wonder Woman takes the high road. Realizing that Supergirl is drained and not a threat, Diana asks her if she is okay and says the time for fighting is over. This is a teachable moment for Supergirl. Not conflict has to end with punches.

And in this brief moment of zen, Wonder Woman ... gasp ... tells Supergirl that the star chamber will destroy Earth and the solar system. And, Supergirl ... double gasp ... actually sees that she is telling the truth.

Hmmm ... maybe that info could have been relayed earlier?



The charade now revealed, Supergirl finally shuns H'El (now continuously sporting the backwards S which has been intermittent). No more 'Beloved', no more 'it was alllll yoooouuuu H'El' gushing, no more 'this is the only thing that has gone right' defiance. She is now angry and against him.

Well, I should be happy about this and I am ... I guess. Except, now Supergirl is a bit petulant, a bit too easily swayed, a bit too hot and cold. She is all in for H'El and then one minute later she is all against him. It just further ingrains an air of immaturity in her, a feeling that she doesn't have a strong core of her own.

I know, I can't have it both ways and I am thrilled she isn't a villain anymore.

But this turnabout does not correct the disservice done to the character in this arc.

We have one issue to wrap this up. Hopefully in those 20 pages we learn H'El's true origins, understand what it means that the Oracle is standing next to Earth, have H'El be defeated, and have the super-family come together a bit. Does anyone think that all those things can happen in a satisfactory way? Me either.

So in this issue, we have tremendous art. We have Supergirl seeing the errors of her ways. And we have subtle dialogue trying to salvage the characterization of Kara that has come before this. We have a coloring error by Dave McCaig who puts Superman's red shorts back on, on a splash page no less. (It is a rare miss for McCaig who otherwise is stellar with nuanced colors around things like the sunburst, etc.)

But in the end, it is an issue were a deluded Supergirl is trying to stop Wonder Woman from saving the world. And I have had enough of Supergirl being the duped villain.

Overall grade: C+

20 comments:

Martin Gray said...

Top review. I hoped this issue would show Kara working things out for herself, perhaps using her X-ray vision and scientific knowledge to work out what H'el's machine was actually doing.

Or to find that at some point Kal had whispered something at super-speed to convince her, and she 'd only been playing patsy.

Or ... something.

But no. I just want it to end. And once it's over, if we don't get an issue in which the Super-Family don't just sit down and talk, heal and get to know one another, I give up.

Martin Gray said...

Top review, Anj. I hoped this issue would show Kara working things out for herself, perhaps using her X-ray vision and scientific knowledge to work out what H'el's machine was actually doing.

Or to find that at some point Kal had whispered something at super-speed to convince her, and she 'd only been playing patsy.

Or ... something.

But no. I just want it to end. And once it's over, if we don't get an issue in which the Super-Family don't just sit down and talk, heal and get to know one another, I give up.

Anj said...

Yeah Mart, it is a shame that there was no self-discovery here, or use of her own powers/intelligence to figure things out.

This whole story has been problematic for Kara. And while I agree with you that a 'post-H'El' sit-down should happen my guess is DC is going to have Supergirl 'run away' and become more isolated due to this experience. And that is the exact opposite of what should happen.

valerie21601 said...

Re-reading the early issues, the severe dissing Superman gave Kara was only in the Lobdell issues. Lobdell wrote Kara the way he and Berganza wanted her to be written IMO.

I worry about Supergirl with Nelson taking over the writing of the series. Harras said in a recent interview how Berganza and Nelson are very good friends and hang out with each other and how he talked to Berganza about his ideals for Supergirl. How Berganza and Harras thought it was a great ideal and thought why not?

Harras in the same interview says she (Kara) isn't very happy and she also feels very isolated.

When I read this something about it caused me to worry about Kara's future.

Dave Mullen said...

Of course, she has to be told it by Wonder Woman, never getting to that conclusion herself. It makes these earlier issues of H'El that much more preposterous. Why didn't someone tell her this a while ago?

Because there was no way she was ever going to listen.
Superboy tried it, she beat him to near pulp. Wonder Woman tried... again she wasn't interested.
The only reason Supergirl finally listened is that Wonder Woman beat her and she had nothing left to fight with, Kara had to accept defeat, hence no choice but to finally listen to good advice and finally look and think.

It beggars my belief anyone would seriously come out defending or rationalising Kara's actions in this storyline, there is nothing rational about her conduct.

Kim said...

"Of course, she has to be told it by Wonder Woman, never getting to that conclusion herself."

Well, she WAS starting to question H'el and asking questions earlier, back when Superman and then Superboy interupted it. That was kinda... Hmm. I thought it was quite clear that that would have ended with Supergirl coming to this conclusion by herself, but that Superman and Superboy's interuption (and their deplorable attitude towards her)strengthened her belief in H'el. Of course, that was Lobdell writing it, thus terrible.

"Because there was no way she was ever going to listen.
Superboy tried it"

By attacking her when she was no threat, slamming her head into the floor. That he then suddenly is all meek... Yeah. Why would she listen after what he did?

"It beggars my belief anyone would seriously come out defending or rationalising Kara's actions in this storyline, there is nothing rational about her conduct."

The way Superboy and Superman has been written (Superman being an asshole, Superboy being... Yeah, what HAS he been, really? Their interaction has been limited to 1) Kara saving his life, 2) Superboy sneak attacking Kara, and 3) Superboy doing a face heel turn). Sure, it's terrible writing by Lobdell, but that's what's been written. Lobdell has made everything he can to make it only logical for Kara to not listen to Superman, not the least of being that he never told her anything about the effects of H'el's plan, instead threatening to hurt her.

The writing, outside of the Supergirl book, and parts of Superboy, has been terrible. But there's really not been anything illogical about Kara's behaviour. Notice that Wonder Woman is the first one to, from the very start, TALK to her, in a *rational* manner. Not a lot of random threats, or just repeating "H'el bad, we good!" without any justification a la Flash. And no silly insults either.

Of course, Lobdell's writing is almost solely to blame. And it seems that's the way they want to go with Supergirl. Wonder if Mike left the book because well, it's quite clear that's not his vision for Kara.

(Though, if this leads to Wonder Woman and Kara getting close, it could almost be worth it. Because that could be really good and interesting. With a good writer...)

Anonymous said...

I am glad Kara has finally come to her senses in this issue, but still she has been treated badly during this arc and I wonder who would be willing read the book if it continues in this vein.
-- DW

Anonymous said...

The way Superboy and Superman has been written (Superman being an asshole, Superboy being... Yeah, what HAS he been, really?


?????

How about a hero. He's the one who's literally dying on his feet but still taking that hideous and uncalled for beating off Supergirl despite not fighting back. He's the injured party here, not Supergirl.
By rights Superman should take firm action over her at the end of this storyline and detain her, for her sake as well as everyone else's out there... at the very least once this is over and done with.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Part of the problem, even in reading these comments, is that the characterization has been uneven in this series and these books.

Superman is a jerk to Kara in Lobdell's book. Superboy smashes her in that book. Supergirl is a fool there.

In Supergirl, Supergirl tries to spare Superboy, seems a bit more reluctant and questioning of H'El, listens to reason, and Superman defends his family's honor.

In Superboy, he is the outright hero, Supergirl tries to kill him, and Superman is a stiff.

It is hard to jibe all those 'versions' of the characters.

More than anything, that has been the problem with this arc. Of course, I have a particular problem with how Supergirl has been treated, a stark departure from how she acted in her own book for greater than a year.

Gustavo Delamarques said...

I NOT GOOD THIS H'EL, I NOT COSTUMES OF THE SUPERGIRL TOO, THIS NEW HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE IS NOT NICE TO ME, VERY DIFFERENT OF THE ORIGINAL CLASSIC PRÉ-CRISIS, OMG! I MISS DC UNIVERSE CLASSIC, IS TRUE AND NICE, I HOPE RETURN THIS STORIES DC IN OTHER REFORMULATION.

Kim said...

"How about a hero. He's the one who's literally dying on his feet but still taking that hideous and uncalled for beating off Supergirl despite not fighting back. He's the injured party here, not Supergirl."

As Anj said... Depends which book you read. In Superman, Superboy attacked Supergirl unprovoked, making all communication impossible. What you said could easily be reversed. Supergirl wasn't attacking Superman. She was talking calmly when Superboy rushed in. Imagine if he'd shown some restraint there instead of being gung-ho...

"By rights Superman should take firm action over her at the end of this storyline and detain her, for her sake as well as everyone else's out there... at the very least once this is over and done with."

Yeah no. By rights Superman should do a lot of introspection regarding how he's treated Kara. I mean, he's pretty much the reason everything's gone bad...

Anonymous said...

Duped like a teachable by H'El, and then jobbed out to Superboy, Superman, Wonder Woman and no doubt Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew in due course.
Just what exactly am I as a Supergirl fan supposed to get out of this miniseries save an alienated misanthropic alien teen powerhouse?
In other words, The Incredible Hulkette....Even if Supergirl "finishes strong" in this mini (which seems mighty doubtful) the overall storyline will have done some major damage to the character. Just don't see the way forward her.
Count me in as one supremely disillusioned Supergirl fan.

JF

reservoirdogs said...

http://www.comicvine.com/news/interview-writer-michael-alan-nelson-talks-supergirl/146089/

Thoughts?

Jay said...

Personally I think the idea that this has done major damage to the character is an extreme overexaggeration. She hasn't even come close to doing anything beyond the point of no return yet (unless she were to actually be cool with destroying the Earth, which she is not). She didn't look too hot the majority of this crossover, I won't argue with that, but I'd also argue that if we're talking damage done to the character, its next to nothing. Because its not like she's an established hero falling from grace. She's a scared teenager whose not even a superhero yet at this stage, so she has room to grow.

As for Michael Allen Nelson, like almost everything I hear other than for me personally I want a close relationship between Supergirl and Kal and Kon. Looks like I'm still going to have to wait there. Which I can, as long as its not outright hostile.

PRgirl1294 said...

I agree with you, Jay. I think that what you guys need to do is to stop expecting her to be this perfect hero and start looking at her through a more holistic perspective. I would say more, but the guy who wrote this post pretty much says the rest: http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?444326-Supergirl-17-Preview&p=16668547&viewfull=1#post16668547

Anonymous said...

At this point i'd be happy if she functioned even as an "imperfect hero"...right now she is basically Harley Quinn to H'el's Joker.
I mean it's great she may have figured out the genocidal aspects of H'el's plan...but the entire process has made her look stupid and weak, while Superboy and Superman look like stouthearted battlers for truth & justice.
Just for ONCE I wanna see Kal El or Kon get thrown under the bus to make Supergirl Look Good - Is that so much to ask? Granted it upsets the sacrosanct super hierarchy...but otherwise one is left with the uncomfortable impression that interaction between Kal Kon and Kara has become a Zero Sum Game and THAT pretty much means Supergirl is officially cannon fodder.

JF

Anj said...

I have never expected her to be a perfect hero.

In fact, the reason I love Supergirl is that she is learning, makes mistakes, and moves on. But in all that, her goal has always been to help people and do what's right.

This arc is as far away as you can get from that.

It's why I liked the earlier issues ... she was grieving but moved beyond that to always do what was right: defending Earth, stopping a fight if innocents involved, helping a friend like Siobhan.

That's the problem here. Other writers and editors are trying to deny this core concept of Supergirl and as a result, for me, they are failing.

Jay said...

Could it be argued though, that the only difference in what we were seeing here was Supergirl trying to help another group of people oppossed to Earthlings? Putting aside the ease in which she was duped for a moment, when you look at what she's doing, she's trying to save a planet. To wit she does not believe the methods to attain this will hurt the current planet she's on. So I think it can be argued that nothing's changed here, she's trying to do what she thinks is right but the differences being that what she's trying to help isn't Earth or its people (but not harming them either), via lies and manipulation.

Honestly its just the ease in which she was duped and the convenience of no one trying to talk to her about it till now which bothers me. I've never thought once though that her heart was in a bad place, and that she wasn't trying to do good. She was just never told the price, a price that turns a potential good into a horrific wrong.

Anj said...

Honestly its just the ease in which she was duped and the convenience of no one trying to talk to her about it till now which bothers me.

Exactly.

She has been very reluctant to trust anyone, even her cousin, since her inception. Then without deep explanation, she simply believes H'El.

It doesn't mesh at all.

mathematicscore said...

I just read a little about Joseph Campbell and the hero's journey in the excellent Action Philosophers, and note that part of the heroes journey is to deny their destiny before ultimately accepting it. There were some iffy moments, but I'm actually ok with this turn of events.